Kaiser Chiefs – Education, Education, Education & War (ATO Records; 2014)
Flipping through the pages of their history books, Kaiser Chiefs attempt to recreate the raw, angry, and slightly anarchistic sound that propelled them to alt Brit rock royalty in 2005, with their latest release. Education, Education, Education & War is their fifth record, and the first since drummer, primary songwriter and founding member, Nick Hodgson, left the group. Despite this reconfiguration, Kaiser Chiefs manages to revive the urgency and grit of their earlier work. Taking a note from fellow Brit rockers, the Chiefs weave in some Pink Floyd-inspired maniacal laughter and dialogue into the background of “Misery Company” and “Cannons,” creating in listeners a simultaneous unease and intrigue. Though the album’s first single “Coming Home” is a straightforward, easy listening indie-rock ditty, the same cannot be said for the rest of the nine tracks that vocalize political frustrations in contemporary Britain, commenting on social and economic disparities. With Education, Education, Education & War, Kaiser Chiefs make a solid effort to reclaim a spot at the head of the alt-rock monarchy.
Trial Track: “Ruffians On Parade”
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days (Captured Tracks; 2014)
Once in a while we all need a little break from the loud, fast-paced music scene. If you happen to find yourself in this stage
of your life, or even your semester, then Mac DeMarco’s sophomore record Salad Days is waiting for your ears. With almost purely organic instrumentation like acoustic guitar and old-school type drumming paired with honest lyrics, not a single song feels out of place. The album has a warm, soothing vibe to it, making us nostalgic for summer. Like the popular single “Ode to Viceroy,” a track paying respect to the infamous cigarette company off his debut album 2, Salad Days has a happy, sunny energy to it. DeMarco almost sounds like a new-school Beatle — this album is a serious work of art and definitely worth more than one listen.
Trial Track: “Salad Days”
Various Artists – Bob Dylan in the ’80s: Volume One (ATO Records; 2014)
In Dylan’s 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, he reveals his insecurities during the 1980s: “I felt done for, an empty burned-out wreck…in the bottomless pit of cultural oblivion.” These fears manifested themselves in a series of unfocused and commercially-unsuccessful albums.
Interestingly, Bob Dylan in the ’80s seems to prove that collaboration may be the key to creating a fresh perspective. Comprised of 17 Dylan cover songs performed by modern indie musicians, including Elvis Perkins, Glen Hansard, Langhorne Slim, Dawn Landes and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, the generally obscure covered material preserves the essence of Dylan’s songwriting, all while infusing the songs with a new sense of harmony and relevance, and staying faithful to the each performer’s style.
For first time listeners of the folk legend, Bob Dylan in the ’80s is a great introduction to this obscure period of Dylan’s career.
Trial Track: “Reggie Watts – ‘Brownsville Girl (Reprise)'”
Coves – Soft Friday (Nettwerk; 2014)
Soft Friday lives up to its name; it’s a mellow potpourri of soothing indie-rock waiting to become part of your weekend soundtrack. Composed of Beck Wood and John Ridgard, Coves began creating music back in 2011 in the U.K.. NME attributes their psychedelic roots to bands like The Kills, Nico and The Velvet Underground, quoting their inspirations as a “tantalising combination.”
Soft Friday captures your heart in an existentially weird way. It immerses you into this aural adventure with psychedelic guitar riffs and hypnotizing vocals, blending each other harmoniously. “Wake up,” “Let The Sun Go,” and “Beatings” are just some great examples of that rationale. Remember how Linus from Peanuts always has his security blanket? That may be the same reason why it’s called Soft Friday: this album will soothe your stressed soul anytime, and your ears will be grateful for keeping them company.
Trial Track: “Let The Sun Go”
-Saturn De Los Angeles